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Fantasy Football: Where Should You Draft Josh Gordon?

C.D. Carter considers where it would be most prudent to draft Josh Gordon in fantasy football drafts if he is suspended for eight games.

Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Gordon, besides causing innumerable shower cries among his dynasty league owners, puts fantasy footballers in a precarious position as he faces a suspension for half — or all — of the 2014 season.

I had Gordon pegged as an even safer first round option than Calvin Johnson before news came down that the Browns’ pass-catching behemoth will face punishment for violating the NFL’s draconian drug policy. It wasn’t just Gordon’s high projection that would’ve made him fantasy’s top receiver in 2014, but also (amazingly) his median projection.

My XN Sports fake football writing colleague Rich Hribar penned a slightly more cautious piece on Gordon’s prospects in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. It’s well worth the read.

Gordon could miss as few as eight games after his latest run in with the NFL drug cops, according to various reports, so fantasy owners commencing start-up dynasty drafts and engaging in the degenerate joy of My Fantasy League 10s are in a tough spot. Where, exactly, should we draft Gordon? Where could we possibly secure value if he is, in fact, only suspended for half the year?

It’s important to recognize how much Gordon’s 2013 production — an unholy 22.5 fantasy points per game — was a product of the Browns passing the pigskin more than 700 times. Cleveland’s run game wasn’t even a zombie — it was an eviscerated zombie. It was nonexistent.

The Browns’ unsustainable pass-run ratio from last season must be taken into account in any creation of a range of outcomes for Gordon, should be only play eight games in 2014.

Gordon saw about 24 percent of Cleveland’s passes come his way during his 14 games in 2013, posting a mind-boggling 2.1 fantasy points for every target. His targets in the table below are for an eight-game span according to his projected share of Cleveland targets.

 

Player CLE pass attempts Gordon targets Points per target Total fantasy points WR rank
Josh Gordon 500 60 2.1 126 WR66
Josh Gordon 550 66 2.1 138.6 WR64
Josh Gordon 600 72 2.1 151.2 WR57
Josh Gordon 650 78 2.1 163.8 WR52

 

The best case scenario, as you can see, has Gordon posting high-end WR5 numbers in 2014, close to the projected point totals of receivers like Justin Hunter, Harry Douglas, and Kelvin Benjamin. It’s all very sad. Gordon’s low-end prospects with an eight-game suspension would put him alongside Donnie Avery and Andre Roberts.

I should note that 163.8 points would’ve made Gordon fantasy’s No. 2 receiver over 2013’s final eight weeks. The 126-point scenario would have put him at WR10 for the season’s second half.

What does this mean for where we should look for Gordon in 2014 drafts?

If you add Gordon’s best-case numbers to the production of a borderline receiving fantasy option (a guy who will end up in the WR25-36 range), you would net well over 300 fantasy points. That would rank among the elite wide receivers.

If Gordon’s otherworldly efficiency drops off in 2014 — let’s say to 1.8 fantasy points per target, that would put Gordon and a WR3 firmly in the top-12 receivers.

Putting Gordon together with someone in the WR4-5 range, as Hribar pointed out in an exchange about Gordon’s re-draft value, would create a mid-range WR2, or (possibly) a low-end WR1. The latter scenario hinges on Gordon going nuclear for those eight games.

It’s tough to get a gauge on where fantasy owners are drafting Gordon at the moment. My Fantasy League data has him going 18th overall, which is obviously a disaster and probably off base. FantasyPros has him going 35th overall. I saw Gordon go in the middle of the fourth round of a recent MFL10.

It’s anecdotal, but it’s what we have to work with right now.

If you think you can absorb the hit of a dead roster spot for the first half of the fantasy season, you should take your chance on Gordon if he falls to the WR50 range. This, I think, is unlikely bordering on impossible. Drafting Gordon as your WR3 — assuming an eight-game suspension — would mean you’re banking on him sustaining the sky-high production he posted during his 14 games in 2013.

Investing in him at that price would also mean you’re ignoring the Browns’ guaranteed drop in passing volume. Probably I’m going to let someone else cast their lot with Gordon in 2014.

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